Eight years, millions spent, and there is still an old McDonald's building on the Beverly waterfront?
The city of Beverly published a formal Request For Proposals (RFP) in early 2006 to seek a restaurant use for their long defunct McDonald’s waterfront site. Joe Leone, owner of Black Cow restaurants in Hamilton and Newburyport, submitted a detailed, 12-page response on April 26, 2006 with13 sheets of attached architectural drawings. This proposal required that Joe Leone spend at least $2.5 milion to demolish the existing McDonald’s building, complete all site work and utilities for the one-acre site, and build a 7,000 square-foot, two-and-a-half story restaurant building. There was a proposed schedule included that specified that the city would designate the chosen developer in May of 2006, issue all permits for construction within six months thereafter and anticipated that thus a restaurant could be constructed and opened on the site in 2007. This was the only response the city received and after several months of meetings with the mayor, planning director and city solicitor, Mr. Leone was designated as the chosen developer of the site.
However, it quickly became clear that the city sought a proposal for a property that lacked even the most basic fundamentals for development. What they really were seeking was a partner to work with them to seek the many approvals and permits needed to develop the site. The city needed Mr. Leone.
Then a long list of new limitations were revealed that were not included in the RFP: there was no survey of the site; no environmental soils information; limited parking; and the site still needed all local permits including site plan review from the Planning Board. More significantly, it needed a host of state permits and approvals. These state approvals included a Chapter 91 permit because the site was filled tidelands, a modification of the grant agreement since it had been purchased through a grant from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation for “park and recreation” uses, and the largest restriction was that the site was in a state Designated Port Area (DPA). The DPA designation restricted any use that was not an “Industrial Water Dependent” use, such as the restaurant which the city sought, to just 25 percent of the site area. This restriction was clear when Mr. Leone filed his proposal so it included the requirement that the city rescind or modify the boundaries of the DPA to allow unrestricted restaurant use of site.